- When he drew the curtains, he saw the city he had now grown distant from. He used to be a part of its craziness, and of its disarray, but now he could see he had slowly outgrown them all
Jan 1, 2017-
Kathmandu’s dust had taken a toll on him. His asthma had flared up the first day he landed at the airport. A sensation of being cheated by the clean and fluffy white clouds above the hills and beneath his plane’s window ran across him. Those mischievous clouds had suddenly appeared to welcome him and left hurriedly after hugging the plane. Probably there were other planes waiting for their warm hospitality—the same kind which his land was famous for. How gracious of them—he marveled at his country’s generosity. However, it didn’t take him long to realize that further glimpses of generosity in his land would be rare.
From the eternally angry immigration officials to the perpetually suspicious custom officials, no one cared to smile and welcome him home. Inflation has its ways—he thought. Navigating his ways through the airport corridors took him rather long despite its pretty small size. Outside, his father had been waiting, constantly looking at his watch as he paced a few steps at every random direction.
He was quick on locating his father in that little sea of anxious people—all bearing parallel emotions and displaying the similar keenness. The mildly deep, faintly brown,
few lines tracing his father’s face took him by surprise and got him worried. These lines were a testimony to the fact that it had been a few years since he last saw his father. He remembered how when he was six, he used to be on the other side—on the receiving end—waiting for his father to come home. Back then, he neither had a watch to glance at, nor the impatience to pace back and forth. He almost always clung tightly to his mother’s Sari’s end.
He smiled ear to ear and took as fast and as long steps as possible towards his father. But, the closer he got to his father the more he realized that his father didn’t quite recognise him, or perhaps denied to do so. Thanks to his ridiculously long pony tail and wildly unkempt beard.
When he bowed for a dhog, his father finally smiled and held his firm shoulders. In that moment he missed the original firm grip he had grown up knowing—there was not much strength left in his father’s hands that once could very easily make him feel powerless.
On his way home, the father-son duo chose to remain silent. The only sound they could hear was that made by the skidding tires against looming potholes. Every time the car passed through bumpy roads, their knees and shoulders touched one another and they instantly adjusted themselves farther apart on their seats.
His relationship with his father had always been spacious and tacit. While silence had been established as a way of life between them, this time around it created a rather uneasy vibe.
Away from home, he had grown more acquainted to silence than ever before; yet, the unusual and uncanny need to talk to his father was troubling him. He suddenly felt a longing for his mother’s presence between them. “How comfortable it would have been if she were here,” he thought to himself.
In an attempt to escape the tension, he persistently glanced outside his window on the left, and the city relentlessly unveiled its soaring chaos to him. The city revealed its monstrousity one by one, sometimes manifested in the rubbles along the road, other times in the broken, malnourished houses attacked by the mire of low hanging wires. Riding on narrow roads with hundreds of potholes, and innumerous motors driven by reckless drivers, he quietly contemplated, “Will this ever get better? Could this get any worse?”
Although it seemed even longer, it took him exactly one hour to reach home. At home he was welcomed by uncountable plants in the garden—his sister’s newfound obsession. He couldn’t differentiate the ornamentals from the weeds, but everything looked beautiful and lush green from the monsoon rain. It was a surprisingly clear day for monsoon.
The wind chime hung at the entrance chimed against the mild wind every now and then. In the air wafted an irrefutable homely fragrance of irresistible food from the kitchen. “Homecoming”, he thought to himself as smile painted his face.
He was so hungry. He ate like he had been starving for days. He shamelessly scraped out every bit of tarkari that remained in the karahi. Seeing her son eat with such gratification, his mother was over the moon. The relation he shared with his
mother was just the opposite from what he shared with his father. They could talk to each other even with mouthful of food. Every time his mother smiled he could tell she had recently gotten them scaled. She giggled like a teenager even at the worst jokes he could tell. She was happy and she didn’t hide it.
“Tell me about your University and your bideshi friends,” she wanted to know it all.
When he got up to wash his hands, he realized that he had eaten way more than usual, and his stomach hurt. He felt like he was carrying a massive stone on his now slightly popped out belly—credits to his everyday beer consumption.
When his mother hugged him one more time, she looked immensely tiny in front of him. He marveled at how he used to fit perfectly on her lap not long ago. In his room, as he emptied his pockets, he found the boarding pass and some coins in it. He placed them on top of the table beside a ‘welcome home’ note left by his sister. The unusually big smiley in the note suggested that she was expecting an equally big present from him.
When he drew the curtains, he saw the city he had now grown distant from. He used to be a part of its craziness, and of its disarray, but now he could see he had slowly outgrown them all. As he gazed at that city buried under a blanket of dust in the distant, he thought of the clean thick clouds up in the air that first welcomed him home. They had oozed sense of such warmth and comfort.
He was sleepy from the long journey. When he turned back, his mother was gone, door closed behind her. He opened his bag and placed his sister’s gift right above her note. Then he carefully took out his return ticket and placed it inside his drawer. He had 40 neat days to find anything that used to be his in this city. But doubt engulfed him, as he pondered upon how to salvage them if he ever finds something he could call his own here.The bed was made, he slipped inside it.
He was home, or was he.
Published: 01-01-2017 10:22